The US Senate has voted to formally impose a dress code, unanimously rejecting a plan to allow lawmakers to wear casual clothing in the chamber. Last week Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ended enforcement of an informal and unwritten code requiring senators wear business attire on the floor. The change, widely seen as a move to accommodate Democratic Senator John Fetterman, outraged Republicans.
Members of both parties voted for a resolution establishing a dress code. Since returning to work in April from treatment for clinical depression, Mr Fetterman has consistently sported hoodie sweatshirts and shorts. To stay within the unwritten dress code, he voted from the side of the chamber. But the new, revised simple code will require lawmakers to wear “business attire” in the chamber.
The bipartisan resolution, though, only defined business attire for men, describing it as a coat, tie and long trousers. It did not address sleeve length or neckline height for women’s clothes, two sources of controversy in recent years. It also did not mention footwear or hats. The resolution will also require the chamber to vote on any changes to the code or its enforcement.
Senator Joe Manchin, the Democratic author of the resolution, said many lawmakers had not known the code was not written down until 18 September, when Mr Schumer directed the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms to stop enforcing it. Mr Schumer had said senators could wear what they wanted, including suits and ties, and a few lawmakers had appeared eager to give floor speeches or cast votes in sweats or shorts.
The resolution’s Republican author, Mitt Romney, said that following an official code would allow senators to show their “respect and admiration” for the institution of government. In a speech Mr Romney noted that formalizing the dress code is not the most pressing issue for the US Congress, where fractious political fights are pushing the government toward shutting down in a few days.
“But nonetheless, it’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s another example of Republicans and Democrats being able to work together.” Senators have long worn more casual clothes in other parts of the Capitol, and then changed to enter the chamber. When Mr Schumer relaxed the code, Republican critics attacked Mr Fetterman on social media for weakening decorum in the senate. In response to the resolution being introduced on Wednesday, Mr Fetterman posted a photo on X, formerly Twitter, of actor Kevin James in the role of Doug Hefferman from the sitcom King of Queens. Dressed in a flannel, T-shirt and jeans, James halfway smiles and shrugs.